Friday, February 28, 2014

The Honest Secret: An Introduction

I can't promise this will be a unique read. I can't promise you will learn much about how to improve your pronation or drop your mile splits. And I can certainly not promise that I am in any way an expert about what I've decided to write about; although, by Malcolm Gladwell's standards, perhaps I qualify for that 10,000 hour minimum. But what I can promise, or at least wholeheartedly aim for, is that this blog and these posts will be honest.

It is about time that my secret life of running -- the good, the bad, and most definitely the uncouth -- be put somewhere for safe keeping. That is what I've set out to do and to the extent possible, will continue to write about here. And so, without further ado, this is my humble story:

I started racing when I was 8 years old. My dad, an athletic enthusiast, former collegiate athlete, and seeker of life passions, thrust me into the world of running with a stark-white pair of tennis shoes and an emphatic anticipation for what I might be able to accomplish. He was there -- mile marker after mile marker -- with that voice dads' have that, even when spoken in a commotion of cheering bystanders, can be heard as if uttered in a silent room.

I did well for my age group and by conventional standards; pressing low 20-minute 5k times by age 10. But by age 12, running had become more difficult for my adolescent body and mind to properly adjust to. After a race in the pouring rain that ended with a spectacular and grotesque display of projectile vomiting, in conjunction with the unadulterated cries from a certain disgruntled father who had watched his small protégé destroy what would have been a ground-breaking personal record time; 200 meters from the finish, no less; I called it quits.

The years of soccer games and body image realizations ensued. Junior high -- its glorious discoveries of braces and trainer bras -- reared its gnarled, introspective head and, most notably, unveiled a time of "busy." My mother's trusty silver mini-van in toe, we were off to games and rehearsals and recitals and family trips and libraries and tournaments and newer and bigger things every day. These, for my beloved rendezvous with running, were the lost years.

And although I hated him for forcing it, my darling father informed me that my first day of high school was also my first day of cross country practice. I thought I was dying. 2 miles to the train trestle and everything was on fire. It sounds dramatic, I know, but having strutted around my "endurance" as a soccer mid-fielder had not prepared me for any of this. And so, four seasons of cross country and four seasons of track & field wandered by like someone you think you've recognized on the sidewalk, but is gone before you have a chance to ask, or look again to make sure.

I graduated with the badge, emblazoned upon my courage-seeking heart; poised on the brink of leaving the familiar realm of a small town; which simply said "come with a clear head and a full heart." My high school coach, a near-religious amount of worship surrounding his solemn ether, had, of course, borrowed the line from Friday Night Lights; to me, however, it was an original and indoctrinating phrase. In many ways, it still is.

High School throw-backs, circa 2008
Naturally, the blurred, hurried, and altogether reforming college years followed afterward. UC Berkeley's rigor, if not complete piñata-like berating, brought running to me as an outlet for sanity. A handful of half-marathons and some wayward planning landed me with a degree in hand 3 years later and a half-baked plan on how to forage a lasting impression on the world. Following graduation, 5 months in Berlin with little opportunity to run and a very long trip home landed me with my parents, away from my friends and confidantes, and on the search for bigger, brighter, more grandiose trials to endure. A marathon runner was born.

I signed up for The San Francisco Marathon with the initial goal to occupy my newly acquired amounts of time with something familiar, yet challenging, and, in my signature style, a bit insane. Or so I thought at the time. Months of gaining base fitness and then full throttle training ignited something I haven't been able to sequester. I resolved to train completely alone -- succeeding in avoiding even a single run with another person -- and I was bent on finishing in under four hours. Lo! 3:44 marked my first marathon finish time. This is not exceptional. This is not earth-shattering. But it is, absolutely and without a doubt, where our story begins.

The honest secret is this: humble beginnings do not dictate humble ends.

The SF Marathon 2013

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